180 Degree Axis rule and coverage.
The 180 Degree Rule is an important aspect of the film grammar. The Director's template has a tool for drawing in the 180 degree axis and it is worthwhile to get in the habit of drawing it in.
Crossing the 180 degree axis can be very confusing since the directions established for the viewer is changed. An example of this would be like watching a football game with the runner going to the right and all of a sudden we cut to him running to the left. It would make the viewer wonder if he was running the wrong way or not.
Another aspect of the 180 degree axis is that the closer to the axis the camera is, the more the viewer's point of view resembles the characters, and thus he feels WITH the character. This encourages the important identification with the characters which viewers should feel.
Proper coverage close to the 180 Degree axis is this from THE MALTESE FALCON:
Notice how close to the axis these shots are. An example crossing the axis is seen in this same scene but with the Bogart shots flipped. Notice how confusing this can be:
Both characters are looking from Left to Right and seem to be looking off somewhere else.
Instead of standard "Coverage" showing the inter-relationship of characters, another method of SHOT/REVERSE/SHOT can be utilized where the character's Point of View is seen. Afred Hitchcock used this method extremely effectively to create a connection with the character. Basically the format is:
This is sometimes referred to as the "Kuleshov Effect" since Kuleshov was an early Russian film theorist who suggested that what the character saw would affect what the audience thinks the character is feeling. His example is showing someone looking at some FOOD would suggest he was hungry, or a BABY that he is loving. Thus the director puts emotion into the actor's expressions. Buster Keaton films are full of this, and Keaton could show with a blink an entire range of emotion.
- 1) Show the character looking.
- 2) Show what the character is looking at and;
- 3) Show the character's reaction to what he is seeing.
A classic SHOT/REVERSE/SHOT is seen in the Wonderful film SHERLOCK JUNIOR.
Useful Tip Taking time to draw the 180 degree axis on your floorplan can save a costly re-shoot.
Breaking the 180° axis Jacques Tati and Yasujiro Ozu were well known filmmakers who didn't use the 180° axis rule. Follow them at your peril!